Paris Agreement Climate Change

Paris Climate Agreement Comes Into Effect

U.S. not on track to meet Obama's promised greenhouse gas cuts



The European Parliament voted to ratify the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on Tuesday. This approval means that the agreement has crossed the threshold for coming into effect by being ratified by at least 55 nations emitting 55 percent of the world's greenhouse gases. Initially, it was expected that the Paris Agreement would not be approved by a sufficient number of countries with the requisite emissions totals until 2018. Instead the Paris Agreement will come into force in less than a year. Officially, the Paris Agreement will come into effect one month after passing this threshold. This is remarkably fast since even the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiated in 1992 took almost two years before coming into effect.

As a consequence of this approval, the next U.N. climate change meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco that opens on November 7 will now be the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, or CMA1 in U.N. parlance. This is significant because countries that have ratified the agreement have a decision-making power over all substantive, procedural, administrative and operational matters, while all others are observers.

The goal of the agreement is to keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius over the pre-industrial average. According to most temperature datasets, global average temperature is is already hovering around 1 degree Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels. Many researchers climate researchers believe that the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions promised by countries that have ratified the agreement fall far short of meeting that goal. In the Washington Post, Glen Peters, a professor at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, observed, "At the moment, most studies suggest the current pledges put us on a pathway to around 3 [degrees Celsius]. The current pledges move us away from high end scenarios like 4C, but they are not sufficient to keep us below 2C."

Under the Paris Agreement, countries are supposed to ramp up their commitments to cut greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels. However, a new study by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds that pursuing current policies the U.S. is unlikely to meet President Obama's commitment to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels.

In addition, the U.S. presidential election on November 8 is a wild card. Clinton supports the Paris Agreement and Trump says that he would withdraw from it. If Trump is elected, the CMA1 in Marrakesh will feature much wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.

Note: I will be reporting daily dispatches from the CMA1 at Marrakesh, starting on November 14.